Psychodynamic Therapy


Psychodynamic therapy is a type of talk therapy that helps draw out memories or feelings from the subconscious with the goal of resolving them. It is similar to psychoanalysis, to which it is closely related. In psychodynamic therapy, however, the therapist is free to use techniques from a range of psychoanalytical schools of thought to help the individual explore their repressed emotions.

This approach may seem complicated, but the theory behind it is straightforward. The ideas that underpin psychodynamic therapy are twofold:

Our pasts — particularly unresolved issues from our pasts — affect and influence our present behaviors.

These unresolved issues are very often unknown to us, which is the reason they have been allowed to remain unresolved and have continued to affect our behavior in ways that might not be obvious.

A core concept is that a series of defense mechanisms hides uncomfortable or painful memories or thoughts in an individual’s subconscious. Such defense mechanisms can manifest as anything from anger to obsessive-compulsive tendencies. The goal of psychodynamic therapy is to uncover these subconscious memories, issues, and feelings so that the individual can deal with them head-on. Once brought to light, the therapist can help the individual process these disturbing memories or emotions. Therefore, they make positive behavioral changes.

What Happens During Psychodynamic Therapy?

One of the differences between psychodynamic therapy and more standard psychoanalytic therapy is that there tends to be less focus on the patient-therapist dynamic. In psychodynamic therapy, there is more focus on the relationship between the patient and the outside world. For this reason, therapists who employ psychodynamic approaches can draw upon a wide variety of therapies from many different schools of psychoanalytic thought. However, this aspect of psychodynamic treatment makes it difficult to describe a “typical” session. One thing is consistently the case, though; the cornerstone of psychodynamic therapy is getting the patient to talk.

A common approach, for example, is centered on free association. In a free-association session, a patient is encouraged to talk openly about anything that comes to mind. A session might include having patients talk about their fears and strengths, their dreams, goals, and nightmares, and even their fantasies. Through the free association technique, the individual speaks in an unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness manner without censoring or correcting their thoughts.

Since they jump from one thought to the next, this state brings up ideas, memories, or emotions that the individual normally represses. And as a result, the therapist can offer interpretations and collaborate with the individual to make behavioral health changes given this new understanding.

How Does Psychodynamic Therapy Work?

Psychodynamic therapy is all about recognizing problems so that an individual can overcome them. As a result, there is a focus on identifying and rooting out negative and contradictory feelings, as well as on processing. This practice often has the explicit goal of helping an individual improve their interpersonal relationships, especially romantic and familial relationships, but also relationships with co-workers and employers, as well as within one’s social circles.

The idea is that once a patient understands the extent to which their social and emotional difficulties are rooted in their repressed feelings, they can begin to work on strategies to process those feelings and thus begin

A Proven Track Record

Psychodynamic therapy often lasts about eight months with frequent, highly targeted sessions. Traditional psychodynamic therapy occurs over a more extended period, typically at least two years. Psychodynamic therapy is not a “quick fix.” Yet, it can offer long-lasting results because it makes a point of exposing the roots of the behavioral problems the patient is experiencing.

Patients often hear that more traditional therapies, like psychodynamic therapy, are not as effective as some of the newer techniques, like cognitive behavioral therapy or more medication-focused approaches. In fact, the American Psychological Association has indicated that psychodynamic therapy, with its focus on the psychological causes of emotional turmoil, is an extremely useful tool for combatting several different mental issues. This is at least in part because of the focus in psychodynamic therapy on self-reflection and self-awareness, which allows for a direct, honest assessment of problematic behaviors and issues that are causing the patient distress.

Who Can Benefit Most From a Psychodynamic Therapy Program?

Therapists at Promises Behavioral Health treatment centers may employ psychodynamic therapy, among other approaches, to assist with a wide variety of mental health concerns and treatments, including:

Obsessive-compulsive disorders

Scroll to Top